The older you get, the wiser and the more set in your ways you become. This is especially true when it comes to your home entertainment setup.
Whether you’ve been using the same components for decades or you’re just reluctant to change, there are plenty of reasons why people hold onto their old gear – especially hi-fi speakers.
But what if you’re in the market for a new hi-fi speaker system? How do you know which of the older ones have adapted to the new market and which haven’t? Does every brand evolve like Canon, or are some falling short in the newer ways like Kodak did when cameras evolved?
I used to love hi-fi speaker systems from the 1970s. They would fill a room with sound and you could feel the bass in your chest. But when I moved into my first apartment, I had to give up my beloved system because it was just too big and cumbersome (which I now regret sorely, to be honest – you never forget your first!).
So, I began looking for a new system that would fit my smaller space but still provide the same great sound. I quickly learned that the market had changed a lot in the intervening years and that many of the brands I loved as a kid were no longer around.
So, which brands should you consider for your new hi-fi speaker system? Here are some of my favorite old-timers that have evolved impeccably with the times:
The Oldest Hi-Fi Brands in The Market
JBL is old-school but is still considered to be a relatively newer company when compared to the likes of Thorens and Yamaha.
The company was founded by James Bullough Lansing in 1946, who also invented the modern “party” loudspeaker. JBL is known for its great sound quality, and they offer a wide range of products at different price points.
I have used several JBL speakers in my lifetime, and I have never been disappointed. A favorite among their list is the JBL LSR305, which is a great option for those looking for an affordable entry-level studio monitor.
However, when it comes to hi-fi speaker systems, JBL may not be the best choice. Personally, I have found that JBL devices are a bit too shiny in design and don’t last as long as their competitors.
Now, I am not saying that JBL is a bad company. In fact, I think they make some great products. However, I would not recommend them to anyone looking for a long-lasting hi-fi speaker system. They are better suited for high-quality portable speakers or those fit-in-your-pocket variants.
Thorens is one of the oldest companies on this list, having been founded all the way back in 1883. The company is best known for its turntables, which are still considered to be some of the best in the business.
Thorens also manufactures a wide range of other audio products, including ragged-room Hi-Fi systems, car speakers, and concert systems.
While Thorens may not be as well-known as some of the other brands on this list, they definitely make great products in terms of quality and customizability.
I have owned a Thorens TD160 turntable for many years, and it lets me do anything I want to it – it has never let me down. The sound quality is impeccable, and it has a classic look that will never go out of style. And, of course, the system is fairly sturdy, as well.
In fact, a Thoren system is what started me off on my journey of discovering old-school Hi-Fi brands. After doing some research, I discovered that Thorens is a German company with a long history of making high-quality audio products. I was immediately hooked, and I have been a Thorens fan ever since.
Yamaha – more traditionally known for its motorbikes – is another old-school company that has been around for over a century.
The company was founded in 1887 and has since become a household name. Yamaha has a wide range of premium musical instruments, traditional speakers, amplifiers, and, most importantly, hi-fi speaker systems to satiate almost every audiophile like me!
I have used Yamaha speakers in the past, and I have always been impressed with their sound quality and sturdiness. These speakers can literally take on any form of abuse and still remain standing for years to come (not that I recommend misuse).
However, I have found that Yamaha products are often quite expensive. This is to be expected, however, as Yamaha is a premium brand.
When choosing Yamaha speakers, you are paying for quality. If you have the budget for it, I would definitely recommend Yamaha speakers – especially if you listen to hi-fi music at a loud volume or find yourself being unable to take care of your speaker system.
Bowers & Wilkins (1966)
Bowers & Wilkins is a relatively new company, having been founded in 1966. The company is best known for its home audio products, headphones, and the Zeppelin portable-ish speakers. There is no denying that at first glance, Bowers and Wilkins speakers and headphones do have a class of their own.
My experience with Bowers & Wilkins speakers has been mixed. I have used several of their products over the years, and I have found that some are great while others are not so great.
However, I will say that Bowers & Wilkins is a company that is constantly improving its products. I should mention that when it comes to noise-canceling hi-fi headphones, Bowers & Wilkins and Bose both make great products.
I have used both brands, and I have found that they both work well. However, I prefer the Bowers and Wilkins headphones because they are more comfortable and have a better design. In fact, my go-to headphones for hi-fi music needs outdoors are the Bowers and Wilkins PX!
Class, sophistication, style, and utility, Bose is a company that has boasted all of these things (albeit at a relatively high cost) throughout its long history.
Since 1964, its goal has been to bring hi-fi audio equipment, or the closest possible experience, to the general public, blending high fidelity and high utility in its pieces.
Bose has a premium touch and feels unlike any other brand in the market, especially with its headphones. The speaker systems are widely used for larger areas such as living rooms, garages, concerts, and even in large religious buildings.
Take Mecca or Vatican City, for instance. I was very surprised (and quite frankly, proud) when I saw that even these places have Bose speaker systems!
I have used Bose products for many years, and I have always been impressed with their quality. The company is always at the forefront of audio technology, and its products are always top-of-the-line. While Bose products are often quite expensive, you definitely get what you pay for. When it comes to sound quality,
Bose has always been in a league of its own. I would recommend this brand and Bowers & Wilkins wholeheartedly for people starting their audiophile journey. Yamaha, on the other hand, is more suited for people who already have a foot in the water and know what they are buying.
Harman Kardon (1953)
Harman Kardon is another company with a long history in the audio industry. The company was founded in 1953 and is best known for its hi-fi car audio products. I have used Harman Kardon speakers in the past, and I have always been impressed with their sound quality in the car.
There are countless options available, ranging from entry-level to high-end, but in my experience, they sound much better in a car than in a room, even with the right acoustics or with the help of an audio engineer. While their products are often quite expensive, you definitely get what you pay for.
I am, unfortunately, not convinced with Harman Kardon’s home theater offerings. I have tried several of their products, and while they sounded good, they were not good enough for me to justify the price tag.
Other old hi-fi brands in the market you can consider include:
- Thorens (1883)
- Pioneer (1938)
- Onkyo (1946)
- Technics (1965)
- Sony (1946)
Some, like Bose, Yamaha, and Sony, have adapted to the changing times and are still going strong.
On the other hand, Sony has a plethora of products to offer and has been around for so long that it is able to weather any storm with relatively similar equipment. However, Sony may not always be the best brand choice for hi-fi speaker systems. In recent years, they’ve been overshadowed by the competition, especially for hi-fi speaker systems.
But if you’re looking for a classic speaker system (not high fidelity) that’s sure to stand the test of time, Sony is still a great option.
The above-mentioned are all tried and true brands that have been around for decades, and they all make great Hi-Fi systems!